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What's on offer in the village of Four Marks

PUBLISHED: 15:20 29 January 2018 | UPDATED: 15:20 29 January 2018

Arrive in style on the Watercress Line (Photo by Andrew Shapland)

Arrive in style on the Watercress Line (Photo by Andrew Shapland)

ANDREW SHAPLAND

A new, old village? Or an old, new one? There's definitely more to Four Marks than meets the eye

Getting there

Based in East Hampshire, Four Marks is a civil and village parish lying just south of Alton, and sitting astride the A31 in East Hampshire. It’s served by the 64 Winchester to Alton bus service and, during August and the school holidays, there’s the opportunity to arrive in style on the steam locomotives of the Watercress Line, thanks to the restoration of the local station, Medstead and Four Marks. The village is also one of the stops on the Pilgrim’s Way walk, which runs from Winchester to Canterbury.


Did you know

Four Marks only acquired its own War Memorial in 2014, which listed the names of 29 men who died in battle between 1914 and 1945. A new name was added earlier this year, of a 16-year-old whose family had lived in Blackberry Lane. A booklet honouring the fallen has been published by the village’s own magazine, Four Marks News.


A bite to eat

For coffee ground freshly every day, breakfast, brunch and lunch, the Nosh Café (just outside the parish boundary) can’t be beaten, according to its adoring customers. The Full Nosh (sausage, bacon, egg, wild mushrooms, toast and house beans) is £7.50; the club sandwich (tarragon, chicken, mayo, bacon, rocket, tomato and onion over three layers) is £8 and the wine list has been chosen by The Naked Grape. Find Nosh at Unit 24 Lymington Bottom Road, Four Marks. For evening treats try The Saffron Tandoori at 8, Oak Green Parade a curry house with specials including Almashriqui topped with spinach, chicken or lamb (£9.25), or Korai Palak Gost, a medium spiced lamb tikka and spinach cooked with onions and green pepper in a spicy sauce at the same price.


What’s in a name?

Plenty, in Four Marks’ case, because there are two distinct stories laying claim to its unusual name, which Bartholomew’s Gazetteer says is unique in the United Kingdom. The first story claims the name was recorded in a document found in 1548 because the village’s site, originally-named Fowrem’kes, formed a quadripoint bordering the tithings of Ropley, Farringdon, Medstead and Chawton.

The second story alleges that during the early 1800s, at the time of the Napoleonic Wars and before semaphore was used, a line of beacons was maintained from Portsmouth to London. Because there was a fee for maintaining the beacon, its site at Telegraph Lane was simultaneously claimed by the four adjoining parishes. But they were in turn outmanoeuvred by the wily Bishop of Winchester, who decided to mark the site out as extra-parochial before grabbing the beacon – and the fee that went with it.

The hamlet grew very slowly, from five dwellings in 1697 to just 15 in 1839 but greater numbers arrived following the end of the Crimean War in 1856, when veterans were allocated plots for smallholdings and the civil parish was finally created in 1932.


Oh dear…

Four Marks finally got its parish church, The Church of the Good Shepherd, in 1952. Designed by Felix Lander, an architect who worked on the creation of Welwyn Garden City, it’s the only village building to merit a mention in Pevsner, the prestigious guide to the buildings of England. Unfortunately the words; ‘Brick with a tower’ was all the great man found to say! Despite that, the church has continued to thrive and remains a hub in the village. 


What’s going on?

During July 2017 the village held Festiwell, a celebration of health and fitness with sports activities for kids and three races to suit all running abilities; a 10k, a 4k and for those hoping to showcase their inner Usain Bolt, a 100-metre dash. The village has a thriving tennis club (three hard courts of which two are floodlit) providing sport, other and social activities for members. 


Village voice

Janet Foster was voted chairman of Four Marks Parish Council after becoming interested in the work it does through her voluntary representation of The Church of The Good Shepherd at the East Hampshire District Council community forum. “We’d arrived in the village in 1987 and found it a very welcoming, vibrant community and a great place to raise our family,” she says.

As her family grew, so did the village, sometimes to the chagrin of the parish and some villagers. “Before the East Hampshire District Council core strategy was formed we had a lot of developers just coming in and building some very large developments,” she says. “The parish council can’t control these, just comment, but now the core strategy has come in things have changed a little although Four Marks has changed a lot.”

She believes that one of the village’s strengths is the variety of activity on offer; football, badminton, bowls, a skate park, a newly-equipped children’s play area, Scouts, Guides and other young people’s organisations, allotments, two Women’s Institutes and – surprisingly – sailing.

“Most people find the idea of a sailing club surprising as we’re 600 feet above sea level but anyone interested in sailing belongs to the club and we have a Weekend on Water on the Solent, where our members offer space on their boats,” she says.


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